800 Years is No Age


Love has so many names. It disguises itself behind many faces and bodies. Every language and every age has its own way of telling the story. One of the greatest love poets of Germany is Heinrich von Morungen. He lived in the late 1100-ies and wrote just a few texts. But these words have been the envy and inspiration of his fellow poets ever since.


The leading voice in German Minnesang during its early golden era, Heinrich von Morungen, was an administrator and songwriter employed at the court of margrave Dietrich of Meissen. And yes, he was also a “normal” knight who went to Jerusalem to join the crusaders; they all were, the romantic poets and singers of the 1100-ies. But he was the most original and “private” poet of the formal art of the Minnesang in a time where personal feelings and real life observations were considered inappropriate. It could be said, that he invented modern “personal” poetry opposed to the otherwise anonymous poetry and art of the Middle Ages.


Heinrich von Morungen wrote in the official style of the Minne tradition, but he turned the clichés into real life, pervaded with anger, sorrow and deep, true love to his Lady, “known to me since we were children”. The readers of our days will embrace his words across a distance of 800 years. Because in the case of Morungen, 800 years is no age - his poetry is still alive and kicking.


The eBook contains 12 of Heinrich von Morungen’s best texts set to music by H.W. Gade. The texts are in Middle High German with parallel translations into English. This is a way to implement the visions of dr. Rod Fisher, a prominent expert in Heinrich von Morungen: “Morungen's songs deserve to be made equally accessible to a broader public than specialists in the field of medieval literature”.



Preface by the Composer




Medieval Dreams


1959, a little boy sits with paper and watercolours. Besides the important tanks and airplanes, one must also have a number of knights with helmets, swords and horses, the size of sheep. That was me, totally absorbed in my play and fascination of the medieval world.


2001, an old man sits with computer and WEB connection. He writes about the world that used to be a boyhood fascination but ended as a lifelong travel into the depths of human life and feelings, 500-800 years ago. Today, nothing is more boring than arms and helmets, and nothing more exciting than the hearts that once beat and the woman and men dancing in their formal but merry dances in the meadow, in the warm summer of an eternal youth and excitement lasting until this very day.


I was literarily raised on the Middle Ages as a child. My sister and brother-in-law are experts in the period, and they taught me about the real humans behind the Arthurian clichés and the carnival armours. Later I went to the Latin High school and learned Latin and Greek. In my teens, I decided to make a film “1272” about the Danish king Eric Klipping, but the project was never realized, in spite of a 200 pages sketch. Nevertheless, I did write a chamber opera over Hartman von Aue’s poem “Der arme Heinrich” in 1977.


My medieval interests ultimately led me to Heinrich von Morungen. An evening in April 1989, my wife and I sat together with a couple of close friends. We came to talk about German poetry and I showed them a birthday present from my sister: a collection of Morungen’s songs. A few days later, I picked up the book again and the first text I read was: “Mîn herze, ir schoene und diu minne”. Immediately, I knew that a new song collection was on its way, much better and much deeper than any of my previous endeavours in the genre.


I wrote the music during the summer of 1989 and the piano / vocal version in December the same year. The work was intended for a symphony orchestra from the beginning, but it was not until 1991, I had the time to write the 400 pages score. The first edition of Morungen Lieder (piano and vocal) was released in 1992. Afterwards, 9 years followed with other projects.


During the last half of the 90’ies, a wave of interest for the “real” Middle Ages rolled over all of Europe, knight societies and Medieval festivals blooming in Germany, Poland and France to mention three of the most active countries. It was time for a new edition of Morungen Lieder.


In February 2001, I started the long work of typing the ten thousands of notes on the computer. The digital score was ready in April and a scanned version of the piano / vocal in the composers (very personal) handwriting was included with the CD-ROM.


My medieval dreams have become a digital reality on the WEB and in the physical world. Heinrich von Morungen lives.


Henrik W. Gade

Copenhagen 4th of May 2001



Heinrich von Morungen


A Complete Song from the Song Collection



6 Owê, - sol aber mir iemer mê


Excerpt from the Score




wê, -

Sol aber mir iemer mê

geliuhten dur die naht

noch wîzer danne ein snê

ir lîp vil wol geslaht?

            Der trouc diu ougen mîn.

            ich wânde, ez solde sîn

            des liehten mânen schîn,

            Dô tagte ez.


"Owê, -

Sol aber er iemer mê

den morgen hie betagen?

als uns diu naht engê,

daz wir niht durfen klagen:

            'Owê, nu ist ez tac',

            als er mit klage pflac,

            dô er júngest bî mir lac.

            Dô tagte ez."


Owê, -

Si kuste âne zal

in dem slâfe mich.

do vielen hin ze tal

ir trehene nider sich.

            Iedoch getrôste ich sie,

            daz sî ir weinen lie

            und mich al umbewie.

            Dô tagte ez.


"Owê, -

Daz er sô dicke sich

bî mir ersehen hât!

Als er endahte mich,

sô wolt er sunder wât

            Mîn arme schouwen blôz.

            ez war ein wunder grôz,

            daz in des nie verdrôz.

            Dô tagte ez."


(After the RECLAM Edition, 1975, Helmut Tervooren,

Printed with permission of the Publishing House)

Alas, will I ever again


1.   (he)


las -

Will I ever again,

See shine through the night,

Whiter even than the snow,

Her body so well created,

It deceived the eyes of mine,

I thought it had to be

The shining moonlight.

            Then the day was dawning


2.   (she)

Alas -

Will he ever again,

Stay here 'till the morning?

Then maybe as the night goes by,

We do not have to mourn,

Alas, now the day has come

As he mournfully cried,

When he lay by my side for the last time,

            Then the day was dawning.


3.   (he)

Alas -

She kissed me countless times

In her sleep,

And all the while so many

Tears of hers were falling.

But I comforted her,

To stop her weeping,

And she embraced me in full,

            Then the day was dawning.


4.   (she)

Alas -

That he so often,

Lost himself looking at me,

As he uncovered me,

He wanted to see without clothes,

My naked arms,

It was a great wonder,

That he never tired doing that

            Then the day was dawning.


(Word to word translation by the composer,

Not to be used as text to the music © H.W. Gade 1989)



Life and Times

Heinrich von Morungen was born 1155 in the Morungen burg in the Harz region of Eastern Germany, in the land called then Thuringia (today Thüringen). His life has been documented in contemporary papers which – quit unusually for the period – allows us to follow parts of his life. We actually know much more about the Roman and Greek writers 2000-26000 years ago than we know about the writers in the fairly recent Middle ages 1000-600 years ago! The medieval writers’ lives are often more legends than facts, but in the case of Morungen and his pupil Walther von der Vogelveide we know a few things.


Morungen worked as a “Ministeriale", which was a kind of secretary or administrator in the Feudal society of the Middle Ages. He was a born member of the lower “service” nobility in the court of margrave Dietrich of Meissen. The Ministeriale position was shared by most of the famous Minne singers at the time, so the audience was the well-educated men and women of the rich nobility. [TIME CLIP"Reinhart Fuchs," by Heinrich der Glichesaere (about 1170)]


Heinrich von Morungen was a songwriter not only a poet. He composed melodies to all his texts and sung the songs himself, accompanied by early types of violins. Unfortunately, none of his tunes have been saved. Later in the introduction, we will return to the way the songs were performed in the Minne song period.


In his forties, he became the patron of the most famous of all Minne singers, Walther von der Vogelweide, world-renowned for his song “Unter den Linden”. A few of Walther’s melodies have been preserved. They are all in 3/4 meters, which were considered the only acceptable meter at the time, due to Holy Trinity. Morungen’s melodies must obviously have been somewhat similar to the simple monophonic tunes of Walther, moving upwards and down again in the modal scales (the Major and Minor scales were not invented before the 1600th century).


In 1197, Heinrich von Morungen is believed to have travelled to the Holy Land with Walther von der Vogelweide. [TIME CLIP The heretic movements in France, fall of the Temple Knights].


As an older man, Morungen was awarded a veteran’s pension (property) by his employer, margrave Dietrich of Meissen. The income of the land was willed to the St. Thomas monastery in Leipzig [TIME CLIP"Tristan und Isolde" Gottfried von Strassburg (about 1210)]


Morungen died in 1222. The year is disputed - some scientists prefer 1226 [TIME CLIP Francis of Assisi and the Church reform]. After his death, Morungen’s name lived on as »edler Möringer« in folk ballads and fairytales. But the above information is documented facts.



The Character of Morungen’s Work

Heinrich von Morungen’s 33 known poems are preserved in the Heidelberg manuscript, collected by Counsellor Rüdiger Manesse. The beautiful manuscript contains texts and fictive portraits of Morungen and over 140 other Minne singers.


Morungen’s texts strictly adhere to the demands of the Minne tradition. But the texts are never dull clichés or formalism they vibrate with life and beautiful scenes with birds and meadows. And in spite of a perfect formal mastery of the conventions, he becomes a man in flesh and blood, with deep emotions, doubts and irony. He is a human lover, not a romantic fool. Morungen scorns the untrue Lady, he is ironic and mocks her, yet he longs for her sweet words and paints her beauty in splendid colours.


Heinrich von Morungen’s texts are some of the most moving texts from the middle ages, on level with Dante and Walther. This is not only a craftsman or a professional, this is a real man singing and arguing with real women. He is in many ways hundreds of years beyond his time, and close to the so-called “modern man” with his complex feelings and ambivalence.



The Songs of Morungen Lieder


The main theme of most Minne songs is the Lady. She is beautiful but often cruel, and yet the poet cannot leave her alone. He is drawn to the light of her eyes and the magic of her beauty. While being helplessly attracted to the beloved Lady, Morungen is still capable of mockery and witty remarks when the Lady insults and scorns him, which she seems to do most of the time. The main impression of the poems is sincerity and deep emotions hidden under the formal mastery and the imprudent remarks.



1 In sô hôher swebender wunne (In such high soaring Joy)

„Ich var, als ich vliegen kunne, mit gedanken iemer umbe sie“ (I felt like I could fly, with thoughts always about her). Anyone who has loved knows exactly what Morungen is singing about in the first verse of “In such High Soaring Joy”. He has heard “the comforting words of hers”, and he is overwhelmingly happy. The whole song bursts with light and unity with the world around him, like in the second verse:


“What I joyfully see,

Mirrors the joy in me,

Air and earth, woods and meadows,

Shall embrace the time of my delight.”


In the third verse, Morungen describes her word as love oozing like dew from his eyes, and in the final fourth verse, he blesses the “sweet hour”, the time and the “worthy” day when she spoke to him. He is “shattered with delight”, a typical Morungen paradox. And as a last paradox, he claims that “I do not know due to love / what I may speak of her”, as he closes one of the sharpest and highest flying emotional love declarations in the history of love songs!



2 Von den elben (By the Elves)

In the first verse, the lover is enchanted not by the elves but by “strong love”. He is so much in love with her that he fears that she will end up hating him. “My life will perish wit joy”. Again the tone of hard but sweet Sadomasochism that can be found in quite a few of Morungen’s love songs, most remarkably in the famous “Sweet Murderer” (which is not a part of this song collection).


In the second verse, he declares that “she rules” and that she is “mightier than I am myself”, but only 2 lines down the verse, he wishes that he could defeat her and make her “stay faithfully by my side / for 3 whole days / and some nights”. He loves her, yet he mocks her unfaithfulness and that she is “much too independent of me”.


In the intriguing third verse, Morungen turns on the heat:


I am inflamed by the light of her eyes so bright,

As the fire does to the dry tinder,

And her treating me like a stranger offends the heart of mine,

Like the water the glowing embers,


Ending with the dry remark: “That is bad luck to me - or maybe good.


In the fourth verse, he threatens a rival and finally says that


I must stand in front of her,

And await my delight,

Just as the little bird (awaits) the light of dawn.

When will I ever achieve such happiness?


He loves and he doubts his love. But to Morungen, Love is not a dull admiration - he claims his right to scorn the loved one if she treats him unkind. This is certainly far away from the conventional image of the Minne singer as a silly sentimental poet crying in the rain. Morungen barks back.



3 Mîn herze, ir schoene und diu mine (My Heart, her Beauty and the Love)

In the short “My Heart, her Beauty and the Love”, Morungen lines up the three misdeeds that threaten to “kill my joy”. Gallantly, he suggests that she too should feel “a part of my distress”. The two last lines “Perhaps she is angry, / As her words did not bid me to feel this agony.” once again stress the ambivalent feelings for the Lady.


4 Vrowe mîne swaere sich (Lady, look at my pain)

„Lady, look at my pain“ is one of the more light-hearted texts in this collection. The poet demands that she must take her word back (“no” it seems, not unknown to frustrated lovers…) and “Couldn't you just for once speak yes, / Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes?” Because – for God’s sake, my love – “That's what I have most at heart.” Wonder, if that could convince this hardheaded woman.



5 Wê, wie lange sol ich ringen (Alas, how long shall I fight)

In the only song in this collection where traditional knight disciplines are mentioned, the lover is furious that he must “fight in ring riding competitions” to win her heart, she who has never spoken a word to him! He rages and ends the first verse by declaring: “And nevertheless I have served her ever since.” Since when, is never explained.


In the second verse, there is a sweet picture of the lady who smiles at his inability to speak his love. “Only with songs have I served her”, he moans.


The third verse contains one of the first poetic descriptions of a handicapped person:


Why do I not talk as a blessed man?

So let me stay silent as a dumb person,

Who cannot speak his needs,

And with his hands he must express his words,


And in the final statement “Likewise I show her my wounded heart / Falling down for her, and bowing my head to her foot.” the knight has laid down his arms.



6 Owê, - sol aber mir iemer mê (Alas, will I ever again)

This is the best known Heinrich von Morungen lied and one of the most famous examples ever of the French “Day song” tradition (see the description of the genre later in the Introduction). The “Tage Lieder” is not common in the German Minne tradition, but nevertheless Morungen manages to triumph in both maintaining the form and adding ambivalent “noises” or “scratches” in the text. The song is a duo between the knight and his lower. It has been discussed whether this is a Hôher minne song (see the explanation later) or Niedere minne, the latter often describing love affairs with common girls in contrast to the Noble Ladies in the Hôher minne tradition. Yet, this song is an outstanding love song, no matter whom it addresses.


Alas -,

Will I ever again,

See shine through the night,

Whiter even than the snow,

Her body so well created,


This is the most beautiful picture of the loved one’s naked body in the moonlight. The magic lines end with the classic refrain of the “Day Song” “Then the day was dawning”.


In the second verse, sung by the Lady, she tells him to enjoy the night, not mourn the departing when “the day was dawning”.


Third verse contains the image of the sleeping woman who “kissed me countless times / In her sleep” while she helplessly cries. The lover soothes her, and she “embraced me in full” until “the day was dawning”.


In the last verse, the Lady describes how her lover is looking at her “He wanted to see without clothes / My naked arms”. She is curious that he goes on like this all night. And of course “Then the day was dawning”. The sun rises and the two lovers must part.


The dialog is also a kind of “Wechsel” song, a duet between man and woman, another German genre.



7 Uns ist zergângen der lieplîch summer (For us the lovely Summer has gone)

This song is an early predecessor of the French poet Villon’s famous song “where are the snows of yester-year?” The lines “For us the lovely summer has gone / Where we picked flowers the snow is lying” reverse the Vagant poet’s picture of the missing snow, but still keeps the same theme; vanity and sorrow. But only a few lines later, the lover happily declares: “Yes, I do not complain of the clover / When I think of her womanly cheeks”.


In the second verse he praises her body:


Look at her eyes and feel her cheek,

Look at her white neck and examine her mouth,

She is no doubt shaped like love itself,


but abruptly starts complaining “Yes, she has wounded me, / To the very death; I loose my mind,” He ends the verse by moaning “Have pity, queen, give me my health!”.


In the third verse, the lover dreams of her “She whom I with songs praise and crown, / In her has God perfected his dream,” and expresses his full heart in the last three lines of the song:


Her dignity delights me,

More than May and all her tunes,

The ones the birds sing; mark my words.



8 Wie sol vröidelôser tage (How can joyless days)

In the first verse, Morungen laments his joyless days, where “Many a man is now silent who once sang so well”. He recalls, “That we both miss the song and the delight”.


The second verse is an extremely beautiful description of a broken heart:


I was once happy,

When my heart used to stand beside the sun,

Through the clouds I looked high,

Now I must lower my eyes to the ground,


In the second line, Morungen uses the picture of the sun, a metaphor he also uses in “Ez tuot vil wê“ with a dramatic effect. He ends the verse by complaining “I gain nothing but pain and a broken heart from her”. So much for romance!


The content of the last verse is a little strange. It seems that she is mislead by “false people” and he hears rumours of her hateful words.


That is a poor hatred from a friend,

To cause me pain by others,

It is not worthy of love, such an ill minded spirit of a friend


But suddenly he changes his mind completely, suggesting that she is only cheating her “guards”, and actually still loves him. The reader should keep in mind that the Lady of the Minne songs was always married to the owner of the castle, who for obvious reasons was not too happy about the poet’s songs.



9 Ich hôrte ûf der heide (I heard in the Meadows)

“I heard in the Meadows“ is by any measure a fantastic text. It is a portrait of young people dancing and singing in the meadows, a deep and violent love song and a superb example of knightly poetry at its best.


We start in the meadow in the first verse. The singer hears “Light voices and sweet singing”. He is both “Rich in joy and weak in grief”, as he knows that the loved one is among the dancing crowd. Then he takes a decision and “I found her dancing where she sang / Without pain I then jumped in the dance”.


In the second verse, the scenery changes totally. We are now in an imaginary void where she sits “Alone and her cheeks were wet with tears”. Here comes no comfort, as she in the next lines “Threatened me with my death”. The verse concludes with the archetypical masochistic lines:


But the hatred of the much beloved one

Was dearer to me than ever,


In the third verse, Morungen meets the Lady in yet another location, a roof chamber (known from every Middle Age movie). The mystical line “and I was sent to her” is preceded by the highlight in Morungen’s work:


There I had the power to win

A token of her love in a just way,

Then I thought I could surround the lands with flames,

If not for the ties of her sweet love,

Blinding my senses.


It is almost impossible to do the original text justice in a translation. The tight rhymes, the sharp metric accentuation of the words and the music in the language itself is on a divine level:


dâ mehte ichs ir minne

     wol mit vuoge hân gepfant.

     Dô wânde ich diu lánt hâ'n verbránt sâ'zehant,

     wan daz mich ir süezen minne bant

     an den sinnen hât erblant.


I could surround the lands with flames”, and then the demon lover is tied by her sweet love. This is an overwhelming poem, hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen!!!



10 Vrowe, wilt du mich genern (Lady, if you want to save me)

A short teaser: “I am sick, my heart is wounded” And who might have done such a terrible thing to him? Of course: “my eyes and your red mouth”.



11 Ez tuot vil wê (It hurts so much)

“It hurts so much” is a bitter song. In the first verse, the lover realizes that “His foolish hope does not win anything, / When he complains so much and never reaches the heart.” He should be wise enough to go “where grace awaits him”.


But lovers are never wise - they are in love!


I need so much to win (her) grace,

As I have chosen a woman brighter than the sun,


Now comes one of the details, which reveals that this is not fiction but real life memories for Morungen:


It is a misery I will never overcome,

Unless she looks at me, the way she did before.

She has been dear to me from the youth,


The sweet affection in the last line is still very moving, 800 years after Morungen wrote it to a beloved woman in the town of Morungen, Thüringen, Germany.


The third verse contains a definitive cry of agony:


Where is now my shining morning star?

Alas, what good is it to me that my sun has arisen?


but ends in a tiny hope:


I yearn to live to see the dear evening,

When she will comfort me down here,


This is the end of a love affair.



12 Ez ist site der nahtegal (It is the habit of the Nightingale)

The last song in the collection is very complex and consists of no less than six individual “songs”, linked together with the common refrain: ”Alas”.


In the first verse, he compares the nightingale to the swallow, the first stops his singing when he has “fulfilled its romance”, but the latter “through love or through pain never looses its song”. “But I follow the swallow”, the poet sings, and although bitter and deserted, he will nevertheless “rightfully speak of my duties”.


The second verse considers the possibility of not singing. But that would only mean “Then I must bear both their mockery and their hatred too”. “How can I learn to live with those, / Who poison you with beautiful words?” The second refrain simply concludes: “I will sing just as before”. Never give up!


The third verse is a painful lament: “Alas, my best time, / And alas, my light joyful days!” After blaming her for not feeling sorry for him, he concludes that he will never more mourn “My throughout wasted years!”


The ironic Morungen shows his poker face in the fourth verse, where he praises her beauty and her good manners. He then reproaches anyone claiming that the poet is boasting with the qualities of his Lady. The next moment, he mocks his love by stating: “I have suffered many worries, / And seldom slept with ladies.” The verse ends with an ambivalent



     Except for willingly looking at them,

     And speaking the best of them,

     Nothing did I gain.


In the fifth verse, the lover complains that: “All that is dear, / Is held in high esteem but the faithful man.” Is this the same man, who was mocking his Lady only one verse ago? He proceeds highlighting his own faithfulness, and ends the refrain with: “Yet I serve her, however it goes.”


The final verse pleads for her favour. He once again honours the Minne formula:


Her praise, her glory to my end I will celebrate

In songs and recitation.


and ends the song with the optimistic:



     If she thinks better?

     And if she, the dear one, did that,

     Then I would overcome all my alas.


“Alas” has become “what”, sorrow has maybe turned into a new hope?



The Composer


Henrik W. Gade was born in 1953 in Copenhagen. After graduating from the Metropolitan Latin School in 1972, he began pursuing a career as a rock musician. His first record with the band Nekropolis was released in 1976. A few years later, in 1979, Gade had his debut as a musical theatre composer on the Café Theatre in Copenhagen with a Baudelaire cabaret. Over the years, H.W. Gade has released over 15 records and written about 40 songbooks and music primers. He is now mainly working with musical drama and has written 8 musicals/operas, the latest work being the musical "Frozen Position" released in the spring of 2001. H.W. Gade plays the electric bass and the guitar. He still tours and records with his band Shepher Moons. H.W. Gade is the great-grandson of world famous Danish composer Niels W. Gade (1817-90).

Photo Paula S. Gade © 1989




German Medieval Literature



The Classic Era 1138-1254

During the rule of the Hohenstaufen (1138-1254), German writers came on level with the French and Italian writers. This development was mainly caused by the otherwise unfortunate crusades. In 1145-47, King Conrad III was followed by thousands of German knights. In the Holy Land, they met the high standing Arab civilization and learned “good manners” and chivalry from the French and Italian knights. The knights turned from armed bandits into civilized poets and admirers of dignified women and ethereal beauty.


Most of the poets were poor knights, dependent on their masters’ generosity. Dukes in Southern Germany and Austria sponsored poets like Heinrich von Veldeke, Morungen and Walther.


In the church and universities, the period was the highlight of the Scholasticism. Formalism ruled, and the Minne songs were no exception. Like in the later fugues, the rules were many and strictly adhered to. The new invention “rhymes” were used with absolute delight and the Minne songs developed their own metric system with two repeated verses (Stolle) and a third conclusive verse (Abgesang), later to become the AAB(A) form in modern pop music.


The elegant, simple Middle High German language was extremely well suited for translation of Roman languages. French and Latin were mastered by many of the knights and especially the French troubadours had an immense influence on the Minne tradition, though it would be unjust to call the German poets mere epigones. The tradition was also based on the old song tradition of the pre-roman German culture.



The Minne Tradition

In the Minne tradition, the praise or adoration of high-ranking women is the main motivation, but political satire and religious hymns are not unusual. The Austrian poet Walther von der Vogelweide (1165-1230) is undoubtedly one of the greatest poets of the Middle Age and marks the golden height of the Minne tradition.


After Walther and Morungen, a long line of poets continued the Minne song tradition, but in the 1400-ies, the style had become a slightly absurd convention. The noble lovers of Latin and French poetry became merchants and shoemakers holding singing festivals and drinking beer. That is how the tradition achieved its dubious reputation.


The early Minne poets were knights under the heavy influence of the Church, which condemned the old German warrior virtues of Honour and earthly Property. The knights were caught between their fear of eternal damnation if they kept practising their old violent traditions and the pious movements, which should ultimately lead to the uproar in the Christian world in the early 1200-ies. They wanted to renew the traditions and make a pure and dignified formal style to express the needs of a new refined generation. The beloved lady - always married and always unattainable - became the symbol of the knights’ relationship to their feudal masters, inspired by the Maria hymns. They became secularised monks praising their earthly Madonna. Their ideals were “maze” (moderation), “triuwe” (faithfulness) and “zuht” (dignity / self-control).


The chaste love of the Minne singer is called “hôher minne”, but physical love can also be found in the late “niedere minne” tradition of the poets following Walther von der wogelweide.


The Minne song style has had a waste influence over poets in past more than 800 years right up till the present days. The Minne tradition was rediscover in the 1800-ies, inspiring Heine and Hoffmann in Germany and the symbolist movement in England.



The Status of Women in German Tradition

According to the Roman historian Tacitus, the Germans regarded women as “sanctum” i.e. holy, and women could even be priests. Christians in Europe and later in South America kept the remnants of a Euro-Asian mother goddess in the beloved figure of Our Lady, Maria, the mother of God.


With the Maria Cult a new humanism merged the introvert woman with the extrovert man into a more civilized world. The Minne tradition contributed to the development of this transition and thus to the making of our present civilization.



Minne Glossary

Alba / Aubade Dawn song. The situation in the Dawn song is similar to some of the scenes in Tristian and Isolde. The two lovers await the daybreak, assisted by a watchman who announces the coming of the dawn in the end of each verse. The traditional refrains “Then the Day was dawning” was probably sung by the audience like in the ancient but still living song tradition on the Faroe Islands.

Frauenlied the woman's song.

Kreuzlied crusading song.

Liebe The common word for love. In early Christianity, Eros and Agape were similar to the pure Minne (Agape) and the earthly Liebe (Eros). Morungen was known to experiment with the “forbidden” liebe in some of his songs.

Minnelied the man's expression of love.

Performance According to leading Minne singer expert, Dr. Rod Fisher, the Minne songs were performed with the singer walking between groups of the audience, facing smaller subgroups or individuals to whom he sang directly. Stylised patterns of movements are apparent in the texts, according to Dr. Fischer. The musical accompaniment was provided by violin players and the audience danced in rows fast or slow. The frequent reference to “he sprang in the dance” should be taken literally as a part of the medieval dance tradition. Illustration: The Minne singer Hildbold von Schwangau

Senhal A symbolic name used by the troubadours referring to the Lady or other characters in the poems, for example using “My Star” as an acronym. Morungen often uses this technique which is related to the Scandinavian sagas / old German poetry where many factual words are substituted with metaphors.

Song forms The early Minne songs were simple and based on the folk ballads. Later, the form developed into the final refined structure with three verses and rich rhymes. The verses are called 1) “Strophe”, “Antistrophe” and “Episode” or 2) Two basic verses called “Stolle” and one final verse called “Abgesang”.

Tagelied Similar to the Provençal Alba, the parting of the lovers at dawn

Tanzlied dance song

Wechsel A song in which the lovers “exchange” their views



The Forgotten Music



The Musical World of the Middle Ages

Our present musical forms with instrumental music based on complex chords and polyphonic orchestra arrangements were unknown to the medieval musicians and composers. Medieval music was basically monophonic songs and for many centuries without any harmonies. The church modes (scales) were the only scales available and the rhythms were free interpretations of the spoken word, for example the texts of the bible.


In the early 1100-ies, the first serious secular music was born with its roots in the Gregorian music tradition. The Minne singers depended on words, exactly like the Church, so we cannot speak of music without considering both the text contents and the performance of the song, be it liturgical or sung before a dancing audience. The Carmina Burana collection belonged to the first preserved song cycles from the Middle Ages preceded by the French troubadours and the Minne singers. A few collections of melodies have been preserved.


The texts are closely related to the musical form with subtle metric variations and rhymes. Variations were considered very important in all medieval art, and every verse should be different from the other verses in the songs, in the language and the numbers of syllables. Inventions were considered the work of a master, but only if the frame of work strictly adhered to the traditional rules. God is in the details.


The surviving music notation is sketches and not precise notation. Rhythm, pitch and instruments were a matter of taste and not written down, so very few details have survived to our time. But although we have a serious lack of knowledge of the original performance of the music, we have a number of music theories explaining to us the “exotic” number magic of the Middle Ages. The intellectual studies were Music, Geometry, Arithmetic and Astronomy. The famous female composer and contemporary to Morungen, Hildegard von Bingen, complained about the complicated music theory, which at the time was mostly speculative mathematics and proportions. Playing the music was to some degree regarded as simple skills unworthy of a learned person.



Links and Literature



Literature on Heinrich von Morungen


For non-German Speaking Readers: Most of the Heinrich von Morungen literature is – for obvious reasons – written in German. However, even if you cannot read German, you can still read the German WEB pages by using the automatic (free) translation services at


A General Book on Heinrich von Morungen

          Heinrich von Morungen A teaching book on the songs, both in the original Middle High German and in modern. German.
Taschenbuch - 247 Seiten - Reclam, Ditzingen ISBN: 3150097975


General Introduction by Dr. Rod Fisher

          Search Minnesinger Heinrich Von Morungen : An Introduction to His Songs by Morungen expert Dr. Rodney W. Fisher.
Publisher: Intl Scholars Publications: ISBN: 1573091162.


Morungen as a Fairytale Character (!)

             Grimm's Fairytales No 529 The noble Möringer (in German)



The Minne Singers and Troubadours


Helmut Tervooren: The leading German Expert in Morungen

             Search Minnesangs Frühling by Hg. von Hugo Moser and Helmut Tervooren. 38th issue (!) Stuttgart: Hirzel 1988.
Minnesang. Middle High German / Modern German with notes by Helmut Brackert Fischer 1996 ( Fischer TB 6485).


See the Original Texts

          Manuscript Sources A general site on the development and forms of medieval poetry. Access to the original texts from the source manuscripts.


An Introduction to Minne Poetry

             Mittelhochdeutsche Minnelyrik by Günther Schweikle Original texts and modern German translations with introduction and notes. Metzler 1993.
Minnesang by Günther Schweikle, second revised edition. Metzler 1995 ( Sammlung Metzler 244).


How the Music and Texts of the Troubadours Intertwine

          The Chansons of the Troubadours and Trouvères: A Study of the Melodies and Their Relation to the Poems by Hendrik van der Werf..
Utrecht: A. Oosthoek's Uitgeversmaatschappij, 1972.


How the Songs were Preserved until the Present Day

          From Song to Book: The Poetics of Writing in Old French Lyric and Lyrical Narrative Poetry Sylvia Huot.
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987.



Medieval Music


General Website for Medieval Music



Website with Authentic Instruments

 (German) Music from the Middle ages and the Renaissance. Over 50 historical instruments, for example early violins, sack pipes and bowed horns.


A Comprehensive Book on Medieval Music

          Music in the Middle Ages, With an Introduction on the Music of Ancient Times Gustave Reese. New York: W.W. Norton, 1940.


An introduction to Medieval Music

          Medieval Music Richard H. Hoppin,
New York: W.W. Norton, 1978.


Music in the Society of the Middle Age

          Antiquity and the Middle Ages: From Ancient Greece to the 15th century by James McKinnon.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990



General Websites on the Middle Ages


German Website on the Middle Ages

          The German Middle Age Society a comprehensive WEB page with a lot of interesting links.


Comprehensive Italian Website on Medieval Poetry and Music

 The Website of Duca Lucifero is an important source of information with poetry from Italy, Germany, France and other countries.


Middle High German Language Website


Medieval Feminist’s Index



Visit the Town of Morungen

          Want to visit the town of Morungen, where Heinrich von Morungen was born? Find the travel details in (German).



„...dur daz volge aber ich der swal,

diu durch líebe noch dur leide ir singen nie verlie.“

[Heinrich von Morungen]






Technical Information





Morungen Lieder

ISBN 87-88619-92-3

2nd Edition, 1st Issue,

Spring 2001, Produced in Denmark



Digital Books™ is a trademark of
NORDISC Music & Text, DK-2700 Broenshoej, Denmark





Playing Time approx. 1hour 5min


Copyright claimers

Text by herr Heinrich von Morungen (Thüringen 1170-1215 ??)

Music by H.W. Gade © 1989/90/91 (Copenhagen 1953-?)

English parallel translations by the composer © 1989

We have kindly been allowed to use the original Middle High German texts edited and printed in the 1975 edition by Helmut Tervooren on Phillipp Reclam jun. Verlag GmbH. ("Heinrich von Morungen: Lieder", Mittelhoch­deutsch und Neuhochdeutsch. Text, Überset­zung, Kommentar von Helmut Tervooren, Universal-Bi­bliothek Nr. 9292[4], © 1975 Philipp Reclam jun. GmbH & Co., Stuttgart, Siemensstraße 32, D-7257). All the original texts are reproduced with permission.

Drawing of Swallow by Geert Daae Funder © 1990

Portrait of Morungen from a series of fictive portraits of German poets, dating from the beginning of the 1300-ies, other illustrations from medieval manuscripts.

The manuscript has been revised by cand.mag. A. Grossert without whom the English reader would have been somewhat mislead by the translations of the composer.

Reproduction of the text and music in any media is not allowed without a written license from the Publishing House, Digital Books™


     The composer thanks everyone involved in the making of this book



Conditions of Performance

The composer's Clause

     "My music to the texts of Heinrich von Morungen contained in this music book is only permitted in public performance, hereunder live concerts, film, radio, TV, recording, CD, data discs or any other mechanical or electronic media, existing or future, in accordance with the following rules:

     No translations into modern German, English or any other language may be used with my music. Only the original Middle High German text fits the music I carefully wrote and designed for the special needs of the old words.

     My own "translations" must never be used to the music, as they are intended as a helping hand only for the non-German listener/reader.

     Translations of the text in the national language of the audience should however be distributed during live concerts to clear up the meaning of the songs. These translations must never be used as song texts to my music.

     My preface should be read aloud at the beginning of every perfor­mance of my work. Preferably in the local national language."



What does it take to perform
Morungen Lieder?


The solo voice (Tenor) is very technically demanding and needs to be carried out by a professional singer. The choir voices can be sung by good amateurs. The orchestra voices are not extremely difficult and can be played by a good amateur symphony orchestra.


The singers must consult local experts on how to pronounce Middle Hugh German correctly.





2   Flutes

2   Oboes

2   Clarinets

2   Bassoon

1   Contrabassoon

1   Trumpet

2   Trombones

1   Tuba

2   French Horn

1   Drum Kit

1   Glockenspiel

1   Harp

8   Violins

6   Violoncellos

4   Cellos

4   Contrabasses



1   Tenor Solo

1   Alt Solo

4   Soprano

4   Alto

4   Tenor

4   Bass